Monticello, NY – Sullivan County has become the first such municipality in upstate New York to deploy Google’s “chatbot” service, known as Dialogflow CX. Developed in collaboration with technology services provider SpringML and the County’s Information Technology Services Division, the Sullivan County Virtual Agent debuted this month at www.sullivanny.us.
“We invested in this technology with the twin hopes that it will quickly lead web users to the information they seek and will reduce the time County staff spend on the phone answering basic questions,” County Manager Joshua Potosek explains. “Preliminary results are promising, and we will continue to enthusiastically study usage of the Virtual Agent to see if expansion is warranted.”
The Sullivan County Virtual Agent is an artificial intelligence-driven program designed to immediately and accurately answer questions from users on the County website. When users click on the chatbox logo in the lower right of their screen, the Virtual Agent will provide a list of clickable topics and a spot to type in questions.
“Whether someone asks a full question or just types in a keyword, the Virtual Agent will provide an appropriate response within a few seconds,” Potosek says. “If it doesn’t have the answer, it will still give a phone number to call, so that people are not left hanging.”
At present, the Virtual Agent only covers questions about the County Clerk’s office (including the Department of Motor Vehicles) and the County Treasurer’s office – two of the busiest public-facing offices in County government.
“We’re intrigued by the potential this new service contains,” notes County Clerk Russell Reeves. “My staff answers dozens of calls a day, and if the Virtual Agent can reduce that amount, our team can focus on answering the kind of questions that really need our attention – and everyone will be less frustrated, as a result.”
“My office is always eager to make it easier for the public to interact with us and get the information they need when they need it,” says County Treasurer Nancy Buck. “I look forward to adding the Virtual Agent to our team, and I encourage people to try it out!”
Since the Virtual Agent is a new technology for Sullivan County, staff will be evaluating its usefulness over the next few months. Crucial to that evaluation will be user feedback, and so the public is welcome to share comments, compliments and criticism with Director of Communications Dan Hust at email@example.com.